WILMINGTON — When Wrightsville Beach Brewery opened its doors four years ago, owner Jud Watkins intended it to be more than just a spot for locally crafted beer and quality food. He envisioned the business as a community haven for philanthropic work. To date, through their 11% program, pint nights and other events, the brewery has given around $100,000 to local nonprofit organizations.
“Our goal from day one has been to create a model of giving,” Watkins said, “in good times and especially during hard times.”
Even though the pandemic slowed operations compared to normal years, it didn’t put the brewery’s advocacy on the back burner.
In 2020 Wrightsville Beach Brewery donated around $30,000 to area nonprofits through its 11% program. Essentially, 11% of total sales from one of its craft beers is gifted to a different nonprofit each month.
The idea of the 11% program is in the same vein of how congregations give tithes of 10% to faith-based organizations.
“If people can do that for the faith organizations, then why not up that by 1% for local nonprofits and help them reinvest in the community?” general manager Keith Sincavage explained.
To date beneficiaries of the program have included Cape Fear River Watch, the NC Coastal Federation, The Ability Garden, Children’s Museum of Wilmington, Communities In Schools of Cape Fear, Smart Start New Hanover County, Diaper Bank of Lower Cape Fear, Team First Book of New Hanover County, NC Coastal Land Trust, The Methodist Home For Children, NC Audubon, Renaissance Wilmington, Switchin’ Gears, and Good Shepherd, among others.
“We try to focus on organizations in Wilmington — New Hanover County, specifically — so we’re helping neighbors in our backyard,” Sincavage said.
Annually, a small committee from the restaurant sits down and chooses who to partner with from the applications. “[It’s] designed to be an easy application process for local nonprofits, in effort to help out our awesome community,” Watkins said.
Earlier in the week, the brewery announced its recipients for each month through 2021:
- January — Paws4People
- February — Skywatch Bird Rescue
- March — NC Coastal Federation
- April — Children’s Museum of Wilmington
- May — Communities in Schools of Cape Fear
- June — Cape Fear River Watch
- July — Brigade Boys & Girls Club
- August — Smart Start New Hanover County
- September — Diaper Bank of Lower Cape Fear
- October — Team First Book New Hanover County
- November — NC Coastal Land Trust
- December — All 2021 participants
“When we get to December, we swing back around and take all the 11 participants from the year and give 11% again to each one from 11 different beers,” Sincavage said.
The beers chosen for the 11% program change monthly. Sometimes the staff gets crafty pairing them to the theme of the cause.
“One of our beers is called ‘Puppy Drum Pale Ale,’” Sincavage said. “So that seemed like a natural choice for Paws4People. This month it’s Skywatch Bird Rescue and we paired it with Piping Plover Pilsner, since piping plover is a bird.”
The brewery also chooses some of its popular beers to be part of the program to make it more profitable for the nonprofits.
While the pandemic affected how the brewery operated in 2020 — the dining room was closed at the beginning of the shutdown — WBB’s beer sales remained solid. Sincavage said offsite and to-go beer remained in good shape; grocery store sales even experienced an uptick.
“Even the couple months where we were closed, our takeout beer numbers went up,” he said. “Though people weren’t drinking in the restaurant, they still needed a beer after a long day — whether it was from quarantining or teaching their kids from home.”
The brewery expanded its outreach goals in 2020 in response to the pandemic as well. Watkins and his crew provided free meals twice a week to families and children in need.
“Our team helped prepare and donate more than 3,000 meals during the strict Covid lockdown in March and April,” he said. “We were at the Brigade Boys and Girls Club, Community Boys and Girls Club, and then we worked alongside our friends at Nourish NC and DREAMS for drive-thru meals on a few occasions.”
They also operated a curbside grocery store and farmers market for the community at the height of the pandemic when grocers were running low on supplies because of panic-buying. “We had access to supplies and products from our purveyors,” Sincavage said.
Since dine-in operations have opened, the brewery brought back other charity events, too, like pint nights. Sincavage said it hosts around six a year and donates $1 from every pint sold to nonprofits in an effort to help raise awareness for the organizations.
As restrictions begin to lift on Covid-19 once cases decrease and vaccinations increase in 2021, the brewery likely will be back in full swing with nonprofit events again, too. Its beer garden has been a hotspot for fundraisers, as seen from Surfers Healing and Hurricane Florence recovery, among others.
Not to mention, if all goes well, the brewery will have a second location breaking ground in Leland by summertime, according to Sincavage. Thus, Wrighstville Beach Brewery will expand its scope of outreach, with its new location focused on Brunswick County organizations.
“People can’t always advocate for themselves,” Sincavage said, “whether it’s children, animals or the environment. So we hope to help.”
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